Gilstrap fingered as culprit

2009-02-22 00:00

IT would be unfair to finger one player as responsible for Maritzburg United’s 5-2 Premiership defeat against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday, but it seems goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap might have done that for himself.

Gilstrap, who had a nightmare in goal returning to the line-up following a last-minute injury to Tashreeq Goldman, did himself no favours by showing the finger to United fans on leaving the field, and is set for an impromptu exit from the club.

The American had been in some way culpable for all five of United’s goals conceded in a result relegation-threatened United scarcely needed, particularly in light of last-placed Bay United’s 2-0 upset victory over Mamelodi Sundowns yesterday.

Gilstrap dived over his first attempt at a save to allow in Rodgers Kola’s 10th-minute strike. The American then did not come off his line to take a miscued clearance by Gary Goldstone to allow Nhlanhla Zothwane to easily bury a second (12th minute).

Somehow, United almost fought back into the game. In the 55th minute Fanyana Dhladhla did well to win Peter Petersen’s free-kick with his head then half-volley a finish, and five minutes later substitute Sipho Mngomezulu missed a sitter.

But within a minute it was 3-1 to Arrows as Gilstrap flapped at a cross and Richard Henyekane was able to lob into an open goal from 22 metres.

Arrows left-back Mzivukhile Tom received a second yellow card and his marching orders for a body check on Collen Zimba in the 67th minute. But in the last 20 minutes United heads hung and goals from Joseph Musonda (through Gilstrap’s legs) in the 83rd, and Henyekane in the 89th completed the rout. Tony Tsabedze scored United’s inconsequential second in injury time.

United chairman Farouk Kadodia said Gilstrap is likely be on a plane home this week. “Hunter is suspended pending an investigation and disciplinary hearing of his performance and unsporting conduct,” Kadodia said. “On Wednesday we will issue a proper statement. In all probability Gilstrap will be sent home.”

While Gilstrap’s departure might solve one problem, United still have many more. Saturday’s scoreline flattered Arrows and apart from the last quarter it was an even match, with individual errors separating the sides.

Nonetheless, this result was a major setback. And while Gilstrap will be the fall-guy, there are a few United players who need to ask themselves some serious questions.

One can understand if United fans who gave of their time and money to be in Chatsworth felt a little cheated. As one fan said: “We can shout and scream all we like, but we can’t do more than that – it’s up to the players.”

United coach Gordon Igesund said, while he was “immensely disappointed” at his players’ costly individual errors, he believes the team will survive relegation. “There’s no doubt it was a poor performance and some of my players let their heads go down. Now we need to get this game behind us. We have five games out of our last eight at Woodburn, where we have looked really strong recently.”

Arrows coach Manqoba Mngqithi had a word of encouragement for his United counterpart.

“I do not want the coach [Igesund] to be too despondent,” he said. “His team tried hard. United had to field a goalkeeper who has not played for some time and lost [defender] Siphiwe Mkhonza [to injury] early on, which was a blow because Mkhonza had been playing well.

“Once United were two goals down we knew their full-backs [Peter] Petersen and [Elias] Ngwepe would have to push forward and we were able to capitalise on those spaces.

“One mistake United did make was pushing too many men forward after we were down to 10 men.

And they continued to play the long-ball instead of making the one-man advantage count, and our defensive midfielders are tall and were able to deal with those easily.”

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